Let me preface this blog by saying that i started thinking and feeling a need to write about this subject quite some time ago but the catalyst has definitely been my experience of the last few weeks. And i would like to say this is just my own thoughts and feelings on the subject so please bear in mind and respect that while reading. Also some of this content may be triggering for some and i would urge people to read with caution and stay safe. I’ve included some resources and information at the end of the blog too.
The subject of rape has very much been catapulted into the mainstream media recently and especially so due to several recent incidents by high ranking public figures (i.e. the ones who have a position of power and should know better). There are many examples but the obvious ones would be;
Todd Akin and his comments about “legitimate rape” and his spouting of absolutely bizarre “scientific” theories. Attitudes that show nothing if not a very strong argument for a better sex education system and which also absolutely horrify me. The fact that he has refused to stand down and has used the backlash to push for funding for his campaign..and received it is a whole other matter i won’t even start on.
The issue of Assange, George Galloway and “bad sexual etiquette”.
For me this is not an issue with whether a crime did or did not occur, either way as a supposed beacon of freedom of information, transparency and above all justice something sits really wrong with me that we are wasting our time defending really harmful sexual behaviour and battling over semantics. Something is really wrong here.
Endlessly questioning what is “legitimate” rape leads to thousands of women and men feeling great shame about their own negative sexual experiences. We need to break down this preconceived idea of what rape is and start unpacking the subtler aspects. Not all rape is violent rape, much rape has a strong element of coercion and not all rapists look like brutish thugs that’s for sure.
The prevailing message seems to be that fault lies in the hands or the clothing of the victims. As a woman i have been taught that i must be careful, i must protect my drinks, i must be careful with the company i keep, that public spaces after night has fallen is dangerous and i have been taught that if something goes wrong (sometimes even if all these things have been done) i am to blame for not doing enough to stop something happening to me. This makes me so angry in a way i cannot coherently express.
It sickens, shocks and most of all saddens me that as a society we so often dismiss and laugh about rape. I know it’s the cool thing to do at the moment, people glibly talk about committing “facebook rape”, jokes are made not just about the act but also about the victims, the way they dressed etc.
I know i will probably be branded unable to take a joke and a killjoy by some for this, people don’t think about it, they think it’s harmless. Please, i cannot say this loud enough; it hurts.
It hurts so many men, women and children who have been violated or exploited in a sexual manner, in whatever form and also has some pretty serious consequences. This year the Met reported a substantial drop in rapes reported. And i’m sorry to be blunt but i highly doubt that this because less people are being raped. People aren’t speaking out and reporting crimes of this nature because a lot of the time they don’t see the point. A scandalously low number of defendants in rape cases are convicted and many do not expect to be believed if they do report what happened. And then when we start belittling serious sexual assault and rape and refusing to believe that this is not a black and white issue people don’t tell and that can be incredibly damaging.
Although these are examples of the huge swathes of ignorance, the widespread dismissal of rape and it’s victims and so many ugly beliefs it has done one thing. It has got people talking. It has outed a lot of misconceptions that need to be challenged as well as really showing the results of the gaps in PSHE.
And i’m thankful that we are finally talking about some of these things i just wish it wasn’t so often so blunt, insensitive and upsetting.
I am acutely aware that for a lot of people, male and female, it will have been incredibly triggering. The sheer amount of hate and exposure this subject has got recently has been overwhelming. I commute into London on a daily basis and found that it is almost impossible to find a carriage which doesn’t have an array of people reading newspapers riddled with stories and headlines about rape sitting next to someone with a copy of 50 Shades of Grey or some variant in their hands. I find this personally to be another quite awkward, uncomfortable juxtaposition but each to their own i guess.
I myself have felt some of the “rape fatigue” described in Jezebel earlier this week: Rape Fatigue and You: When There’s Just No Anger Left
And i want to leave you with the words of a few who have said it a lot better than i have and some resources if you are struggled and have been triggered with recent media coverage or with this blog post. Stay safe everyone.
Recommended Reading *TRIGGER WARNING*:
Please be warned that these could be triggering
Penny Red: It’s Trigger Warning Week
An open letter to Tod Aikin from a woman who got pregnant from rape
Rape Crisis (UK)
Information and advice from the NHS
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in rape survivors: